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TPG’s Guide to Osaka, Japan

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Following my recent trip to Japan to film new episodes of TPGtv, I was getting a ton of questions from readers about what I recommend doing in Tokyo and Osaka. While I’ve already covered my favorite things to do in Tokyo — what things you should definitely do and what you should skip — I’m now turning my attention to Osaka.

Although I wasn’t in Osaka for very long, I was extremely impressed with the city and all it has to offer. As the second-largest city in Japan, it’s vastly populated and is quite large, geographically speaking. That being said, there’s plenty to do no matter how long you’re staying in the city. Whether you choose to wander the luxury boutiques or take in the cultural sites, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Osaka. Here’s my list of what you should definitely set out to do and what you can skip in Osaka, Japan.

GETTING THERE

A first look at the bullet train.
A first look at the bullet train.

Bullet Train — Japan’s transportation system is perhaps best highlighted by its high-speed railway, Shinkansen. I took the bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka in both directions and was generally impressed with both the speed of the train and how nice it was. I’ve been on Amtrak before in the States and it’s usually a pretty bumpy ride, so I was pleasantly surprised when the bullet train was extremely smooth. This is a great way to get around Japan. Recommend.

HOTEL

My room at the St. Regis Osaka.
My room at The St. Regis Osaka.

The St. Regis Osaka — This SPG property is centrally located in Osaka. Within walking distance of its front doors, you’ll find everything from shopping to art galleries, restaurants, cafés and more. Also within walking distance of the hotel is the famed Osaka Castle (more on that below). My two-night stay here was great with all the amenities I could ever need and I wish I could have stayed longer. The St. Regis Osaka is a Category 6 property, requiring 20,000-25,000 Starpoints per night. Recommend.

THINGS TO DO

Looking up at the Umeda Sky Building.
Looking up at the Umeda Sky Building.

Floating Garden Observatory — The Umeda Sky Building is one of the most recognizable buildings in Osaka, as its two-building structure is connected at the top by an atrium-like crosswalk. The Floating Garden Observatory offers unbeatable views of Osaka from the top of the building. As an added bonus, it’s outside so you’ll get to feel fresh air — and strong winds — from the top of the building. 531-0076 1-1-88 Oyodo-naka, Kita-ku, Osaka. Recommend.

The Osaka Castle is stunning.
Osaka Castle is stunning.

Osaka Castle — This is definitely not worth missing if you’re in Osaka. While the castle itself is well worth the visit, the cherry blossoms that surround the pathways within the park add to the overall experience. I was in awe standing beneath the castle and looking up at its stature — truly unlike anything I’d ever seen. Surrounded by several moats of water, the views are breathtaking. Recommend.

NEIGHBORHOODS

The Tsutenkaku Tower in Shinsekai overlooks Osaka.
Tsutenkaku Tower in Shinsekai overlooks Osaka.

Shinsekai (Osaka) — The Shinsekai neighborhood of Osaka is located near the downtown area. Tsutenkaku Tower in Shinsekai offers those at the top of its structure unobstructed views of the city below. The neighborhood is full of bright signs and overwhelming clusters of objects when you look up. It’s a really neat neighborhood, even if you’re only able to explore it for a couple of hours. Recommend.

RESTAURANTS

Trying pufferfish at Zuboraya.
Trying pufferfish at Zuboraya.

Zuboraya — Shinsekai is well known for its mass amount of fugu-specialty restaurants. In case you don’t know, fugu is the Japanese word for pufferfish — aka one of the most dangerous foods in the world. When you’re in good hands with chefs who know what they’re doing, the fish is entirely safe and actually can taste quite good. You should definitely try it if you’re in the area. 1 Chrome-4-16 Ebisuhonmachi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka. Recommend.

We had a wonderful dinner at Fujiya 1935 with TPG reader Clare and husband in Osaka.
We had a wonderful lunch at Fujiya 1935 with TPG reader Clare and her husband, John.

Fujiya 1935 — We actually bumped into TPG reader Clare and her husband John, who we’d first met on my flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Narita (NRT) when I tested out Singapore Suites, at The St. Regis Osaka and invited them to join us for lunch at Fujiya 1935. The restaurant has three Michelin stars and from my lunch there, I can definitely see why. Everything from the service to the food to the wine selection was great — I really couldn’t have asked for a better meal. I was especially impressed with the meal presentation, as each course looked picture perfect — and tasted even better. 2-4-14 Yariyamachi, Chuo-ku, Osaka. Recommend.

Grab a drink at the Masada Lounge.
Grab a drink at the Bar Masuda.

Bar Masuda —If you’re in the mood to try some one-of-a-kind drinks in Osaka, Bar Masuda is the place to go. There, you’ll find a quiet, cozy and dark lounge that is home to some really neat drink concoctions. The bartenders there really know what they’re doing — when I was there, we were treated to a showing of drinks that featured flames, gasses and more. Yubinbango 542-0085 Chuo-ku, Osaka Shinsaibashisuji No. 2-chrome 3 No. 11. Recommend.

Bottom Line

Osaka is a great city that’s full of things to do and places to see. No matter where you choose to go, chances are you’ll find something you’ll enjoy. However, I must say that it’s worth it to try some new things when you’re in a new place, like tasting fugu in the Shinsekai neighborhood.

What are your favorite things to do in Osaka?

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